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Red Deer County, Alberta

Published September 23rd, 2011

Listening to the alarm at 5:30 isn’t exactly what I would call exciting, but I know the potential is superb for some great photo opportunities if I could just get myself out of bed. Of course I do get up as once I’m awake I can rarely fall back asleep, so I pack my gear into the car, which I had gathered together the evening before to save time in the morning, and I head out of town. I had no preconceived ideas of what I wanted to photograph or where I might go to find these images and so just start watching the sky for interesting clouds or a bank of fog over a low lying bit of land or maybe some ducks resting on a slough. Whatever catches my eye gets a more thorough going over to see if I feel I might be able to put together some ingredients for an image.



I ended up southeast of town by maybe 20km or so next to a large slough and noticed that the car’s thermometer was registering -4C and so started to watch for frost laden grass and fog rising over the slough. I spent some time in the dark just listening to the birds at the slough, as I had maybe 40 minutes or so before the sun was up. I had seen a bit of grass in the ditch covered in frost only a few hundred meters before the slough, but decided to continue on with an idea of returning to the spot in a bit once it became lighter out. I am one of those people who really wants to see what is around the next bend in the road or over that small hill just ahead, and so that is exactly what I did. There were a few things to see and photograph as the sun peeked over the horizon, including this first image of grass rimmed in one of the first frosts of the season.

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I decided then to head back to where I had first seen some other grasses in the ditch on the other side of the slough and up the road a ways. By now the air had warmed up sufficiently to melt the frost leaving many tiny droplets of water clinging to the individual blades. I searched through the tangled mess of grasses to find just the right combination of angles, and colours to make an image that captured the beauty I was seeing. It took a few minutes and once I located the spot I wanted to photograph I had to be very careful lining up my tripod and camera so as not to bump the leaves and lose all the tiny drops clinging to the blades. I stopped the lens down for maximum depth of field and as I had not brought my remote control,very slowly squeezed the shutter release for the 1/10 second exposure so as not to move the camera during the exposure. A quick check of the image on the LCD panel confirmed that it was indeed sharp and I headed off looking for more photo possibilities.

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The deep rich tones of the grass contrasting with the droplets of water are what make this image, but also the right balance of curved grass blades heading this way and that in an organized manner. After travelling the backroads a bit longer, the sun was coming up strong and the interesting photo ops for me were over for the day.

The next morning I invited my youngest son Alexander to come along. He agreed and jumped out of bed at the 5:30 wake up call, unlike every other day when getting up means going to school. We again packed up the car, went through the drive through at McDonalds for a breakfast sandwich, a juice, and a coffee for me. We headed to the same slough as I had visited the previous day and again listened to the Common Goldeneyes with the wind whistling through their wings, some Canada geese, a bunch of coots, and then some shotgun blasts from some hunters off in the distance. I made a few images of the fog and some of the birdlife before we moved on to what I hoped would be greener pastures.

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We headed further south and discovered a great example of my favourite kind of road – one which is very rough, has virtually no gravel and has lots of twists and turns. Following it along for a couple of kilometres it ended at a gas valve, so I parked the car and we headed off through the frost covered grasses. Me wearing jeans and boots, Alexander holding on to summer in shorts and running shoes remember it’s -4C. To say the least he was a bit uncomfortable. I guess that’s how we learn right? We ended up trekking over a small hill to find one of the nicest spots I’ve seen in this area. I truly would love love to own the property and build a weekend cabin to head to every now and again to spend time reading and canoeing and exploring the countryside.

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From the top of the small hill, the view was spectacular looking across the water with the fog lifting and ducks swimming about as the sun was rising. Directly behind us was a great group of trees that I spent a while looking for an image. I ended up looking back towards the water through the trees directly into the sun to make the next image.

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We headed back to the car as Alexander claimed he couldn’t feel his toes any longer. I turned the heater on in the car and we backtracked down the road. Once again we headed south hoping to find another access point to the water. We did find one, but it was posted for No Entry and so moved on. A little further down the gravel road we found another body of water of about the same size as the last, but the access point did not provide a very nice view. I wondered through the ditches again looking for interesting compositions. The grasses here had a fairly heavy frost and after a few minutes of looking I found just the right combo of elements that made a pleasing image.

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A little more roaming about and I found this one leaf lying amongst the grass. It is such an obvious use of the rule of thirds, but it was there for the taking! Both mornings I was using Sony’s A900 SLR with the Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. The camera was great to work with and easy to use, although I couldn’t figure out how to get it to bracket exposures and use the self timer. the lens is a solid feeling optic and quite hefty, so is the camera, but when on a tripod it helps to steady for the longer exposures I was dealing with. The camera provides great high resolution files when used at the lowest ISO settings, but once you venture up to 400ISO things start to fall apart. Landscapes at 100ISO is where you need to use this camera.

The lens has superb resolution in the centre of the image even wide open and stopped down this zone of sharpness expands out to near the edges, although I found the extreme corners to still suffer from blurriness even when stopped down. I would honestly prefer to have the same focal length lens, but with a maximum aperture of f/4, and optics which would exhibit outstanding performance right into the corners. I never really need f/2.8 in this kind of lens anyway and the smaller maximum aperture would reduce the weight and size of the lens into something I wouldn’t mind carrying around for a day. Not a combo I would purchase, but one that was fun to play with.

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[Sony A900, Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8]

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